I rarely review chain restaurants; in fact, I rarely eat at them. I believe in supporting local eateries and while situations or tastes sometimes dictate a trip to Big Bowl, Red Robin or the Claddagh Pub, I usually don’t write reviews because if you’ve been to one you’ve been to them all. Occasionally though, I have an experience so good or so bad I feel I have to share. A recent visit to Uno’s Chicago Grill has provided just that occasion.
On a recent Saturday night, my partner and I were in the mood for a deep dish pizza pie. Our choices were Madison favorite Gino’s or Uno’s (formerly Pizzeria Uno but apparently that name didn’t test well anymore). Given that it was a football Saturday, we thought it best to avoid downtown and give Uno’s a visit. Obviously, Uno’s made its name in Chicago as one of the inventors of deep dish and over the last 50 plus years has expanded all over the nation. Having been to the original in Chicago with my parents as a small child I’ve always been a fan. Sadly, I think I’ll stick to the frozen version from now on.
Chain restaurants never set themselves apart based on their cuisine so they need to deliver stunning service and Uno’s missed the mark badly. Our visit started innocently enough as we were seated moments after arriving. Our waiter Ed greeted us and took our drink orders. My partner’s Sierra Mist showed up in a timely manner but tasted like a rat had died in the line. A refill turned out better but there was no apology given by Ed and thus our evening began to decline. My margarita came about a half hour later and clearly, Ed had forgotten about it entirely. Thankfully, another staff person brought the $9 drink to our table. I love margaritas but $9 for a rail drink is just ridiculous. That being said the drink was good but coming at the same time as our appetizer is not acceptable. Speaking of said appetizer, we were pleased with the flavors of our deep fried onion strings. The lightly battered strips were fried perfectly and came with a mild jalapeno horseradish sauce. The dish would have been even better if they weren’t lukewarm. Furthermore, our request for silverware and napkins was treated with indifference. By the time our pizza finally arrived, Ed and the staff had clearly given up on even trying to please any of the customers. This time we weren’t given plates, parm or red pepper flakes. Once Ed brought those over, he left us to serve our pizza on our own. If you’ve even been to an Uno’s, you know they always sever their guests the first slices of pie. This omission was yet another nail in the coffin. As for the trademark pizza itself, the results were mostly positive. I’d say that Uno’s frozen division deserves kudos, as their version of the pie is virtually identical to the restaurant’s version. I’m not sure if that’s a rip on the restaurant version or not. Anyway as we finished our meal, Ed couldn’t get us out of there soon enough. Frankly, we couldn’t either.
Again, I expect to be underwhelmed by the food at most chain places but I always hold the service to high standards. Sadly, Uno’s Chicago Grill got failing grades on both accounts. The passable food was not enough to overcome the poor service. If you’re looking for a good deep dish in Madison, go to Gino’s and if you want Uno’s visit your grocer’s freezer.